Psalm 23:1 (NKJV)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
If the entirety of Psalm 23 is true, then why do we worry so much? If Psalm 23 is the richest psalm in the entire book, and most likely the most beautifully written chapter in the entire bible, then why do we not rest in it’s comforting arms more readily? Could it be that it is simply too good to be true? Perhaps for a human being who has trouble seeing himself as a sheep in need of a shepherd…but not for David. He knew what it was to be a shepherd with a flock. He knew what the flock needed to flourish. And he knew, from years and years of walking with his Lord, that this seemingly underwhelming comparison of the King of Kings to a lowly shepherd was the most complete picture of God’s grace and sufficiency available to him in the ancient world.
We are the sheep…and God is our shepherd.
“A sheep, saith Aristotle, is a foolish and sluggish creature… aptest of anything to wander, though it feel no want, and unablest to return… a sheep can make no shift to save itself from tempests or inundation; there it stands and will perish, if not driven away by the shepherd.” (Trapp)
“A sheep is an object of property, not a wild animal; its owner sets great store by it, and frequently it is bought with a great price. It is well to know, as certainly as David did, that we belong to the Lord. There is a noble tone of confidence about this sentence. There is no ‘if’ nor ‘but,‘ nor even ‘I hope so;’ but he says, ‘The Lord is my shepherd.’” (Spurgeon)
“David uses the most comprehensive and intimate metaphor yet encountered in the Psalms, preferring usually the more distant ‘king’ or ‘deliverer’, or the impersonal ‘rock’, ‘shield’, etc.; whereas the shepherd lives with his flock and is everything to it: guide, physician and protector.” (Kidner)
Theologians throughout the ages have sought to plumb the depths of these six verses…but alas, there is no bottom to the well…but only if you grasp the analogy. The foolishness of the sheep can only be thwarted by the loving-kindness and intervention of its shepherd. A sheep is prone to wander, and sometimes, the shepherd has to literally break its leg in order to preserve its life. The shepherd in David’s day would lead his sheep through seemingly desolate fields and valleys…but upon closer inspection, were dotted with the small tufts of vegetation that would sustain the needs of his flock on a day-by-day basis. The shepherd knew where the gentle streams were flowing…and where the deadly enemies were lurking.
Spurgeon said that before someone can truly say, “the LORD is my shepherd” they must first feel themselves to be a sheep by nature, “for he cannot know that God is his Shepherd unless he feels in himself that he has the nature of a sheep.” He must relate to a sheep in its foolishness, its dependency, and in the warped and self-defeating nature of its will. The American Way tells us that we are the captain of our ship and the master of our destiny and with hard work, we can make all our dreams come true. The truth is that in our sin, we are like sheep without a shepherd (Mth. 9:36) and left to our own devices, there is only destruction at the end of our path (Pr. 14:12). But…by the grace of God…and through the power of the resurrection…The Lord IS our shepherd…and by that eternal truth, we can say, along with King David:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.